Randy Holden – Population II (1970)

FrontCover1Randy Holden (born July 2, 1945) is an American guitarist best known for his involvement with the West Coast acid rock group Blue Cheer on their third album, New! Improved! (1969). Additionally, he is a painter. His album Population II From 1970 is considered to be one of the earliest examples of doom metal.

Randy Holden was born in Pennsylvania and grew up on the move. He played in a number of bands including The Iridescents (blues rock), The Fender IV (surf rock) and the Sons of Adam (surf rock/psychedelic rock). Holden relocated the Fender IV from Baltimore, Maryland to Southern California and they eventually became the Sons of Adam. While playing in the Sons of Adam Holden opened for the Rolling Stones at their first show at the Long Beach Sports Arena. Holden was heavily influenced by Keith Richards’ guitar and amp set up which helped change his own attitude towards equipment and tone. The Sons of Adam (specifically Holden) began experimenting with distortion and feedback which pushed into psychedelic rock. Holden left the band frustrated with the lack of original material.

Holden joined up with The Other Half, a psychedelic garage band from Los Angeles. They recorded one album together before Holden parted ways. He then replaced Leigh Stephens in Blue Cheer and appeared on one side of the album New! Improved! Blue Cheer (1969). Holden toured with Blue Cheer for an entire year before once again parting ways.


Frustrated with lack of control over the bands, Randy formed his next new band with drummer Chris Lockheed. Lockheed, also a keyboard player, uniquely played both drums and keyboard simultaneously in live performances. During this time Holden obtained a sponsorship deal with Sunn amplifiers. Through this, he received his legendary sixteen 200 Watt amplifiers. His new band was dubbed “Randy Holden – Population II” which was a reference to the fact there were only two members in the band as well as being an astronomical term “Population II” that defines a special kind of Star Group cluster type, having Heavy Metal in its composition. An appropriate description of the original style of the music attributed to Holden’s new band. The band recorded its only album, Population II (1970).


Trouble with the release of the album led to Holden going bankrupt, losing all his equipment and his departure from music for over two decades. Population II was eventually released multiple times in bootleg forms over the years, with no official re-release until a limited issue in LP in 2005 and finally a remastered CD in 2008. The album has become a much-sought-after collectors’ item over the years. After more than two decades he returned to his guitar, and began creating music again, reportedly at the continual urging of a loyal fan. He recorded Guitar God in 1994 and released Guitar God 2001 in 2001, followed in 2008 with the release of “Raptor”.

In 2008 Richie Unterberger said “He’s a good candidate for selection as the great unknown 1960s rock guitar hero. No other American guitarist was as skilled at creating the kind of sustain-heavy, snaky guitar lines pioneered by Jeff Beck in the Yardbirds. His recordings with the Fender IV, Sons of Adam, Ugly Things, The Other Half, and Blue Cheer, as well as his solo recordings, don’t only contain some feverishly innovative playing. They also chart the overall rainbow of changes undergone by California 1960s rock guitar as a whole, from surf to pseudo-Merseybeat to psychedelia, hard rock and heavy metal.”

Randy is married to American artist Ruth Mayer. His son, Marlon Holden, is a photographer. (by wikipedia)


And here´s his very early masterpiece:

Holden’s first solo album (he would not release any more music for about 25 years) was a strange bridge between psychedelia and heavy metal. At times these lurching, extended songs sound like sub-Jimi Hendrix noodling. But at the same time they sound genuinely more sinister and feverish than the by-the-numbers heavy metal soloing that would become so popular starting in the early 1970s. The slow, sometimes dirge-like tempos were a result of an adventurous two-man band situation in which Holden’s only accompanist was Chris Lockheed, who played drums and keyboards simultaneously and couldn’t be expected to effectively keep rapid rhythms. Holden is much more of a guitar player than a singer/songwriter, but these do have some smoking sustain passages, sometimes with a stratosphere-like wobbly bite, as on “Fruits and Icebergs.” According to Holden the album was never officially released, but somehow the tapes or pressings must have reached collectors, as it’s been bootlegged more than once. (by Richie Unterberger)

RandyHolden05.jpgIn 1969, proto-metal guitarist Randy Holden owned no less than 16 amps, each encased with 200 watts of power, which might explain why this record, Population II, has guitars that sound not like heavy metal falling from the sky, but like black holes disintegrating chunks of the earth’s core. It’s an admirable sound achieved by just Holden and drummer Chris Lockheed (who also played keyboards simultaneously), coming together to make the tracks even more unbelievable. The album is a showcase for a great guitarist who was well versed in a variety of styles, who focused on distilling everything he knows into something monolithically heavy and, for most of it, slow, like an octogenarian driving in the left lane. The end result is music that weights down on you, but ultimately feels satisfying, like the best doom metal from any decade.

Sadly, Population II was a fluke, an occurrence that happened once and then quickly fell into oblivion. Soon after its release on Hobbit Records, a large portion of Randy’s gear was stolen, and the album was left in limbo until a couple of years ago. I wonder what metal would’ve been like had Population II directly influenced it with such dragging beats and thicker-than most-of-its-contemporaries riffs. I guess it’s something we’ll never know. But what’s undeniable is that history would’ve surely regarded Randy Holden as one of metal’s greatest blueprinters. (by Marcus Hassan)


The labels from the Line Records (Germany) re-release in 1982

Randy Holden (guitar, bass, vocals)
Chris Lockheed (drums)


01. Guitar Song 6:06
A2 Fruit & Iceburgs 5:59
A3 Between Time 1:48
A4 Fruit & Iceburgs (Conclusion) 1:48
B1 Blue My Mind 6:01
B2 Keeper Of My Flame 10:07

All songs written by Randy Holden



RandyHolden04Randy Holden in 2017